He reeks of iron.
When people think of blood, they think of copper; that’s a false equivocation. They see red and think copper, they taste sour and metallic and think of the only red and shining metal they know of. But it’s iron that makes blood reek metal, the iron of swords, folded and folded and let to spill only when they meet their heavyweight counterpart.
Corvo reeks of iron. He’s lost count of how many Whaler’s he’s taken out, wishing each time he had something more poetic. A harpoon might do, might let him feel some small victory where now he feels only bloodlust.
He’s tried to be merciful. He’s staid his hand at so many, left people to answer for their crimes in ways that involved no bloodshed. He’s spent countless hours sneaking in shadows and filth just to let a few more guardsmen live out their days.
But something in him has broken. He could feel his spine of steel snap at the first vertebra, something swelling low in his brain when Daud and his Whalers had decided to drop him in yet another prison cell to rot.
It had been the rising panic, crashing in to him as sure as any storm surge, that had made him take the lives of the three who lingered around the pits. He’d run them through before he’d even had time to think, all instinct and nerves that jangled loud as any siren Sokolov had ever designed.
When he arrives into Daud’s lair, he’s soaked in floodwater and blood, same as any other plague rat. He doesn’t sneak, hunting isn’t just instinct any more.
He is wet, and hurting, and half gone on the poison still working its way through his system when he sees the assassin’s face. If Daud cares to look, there’s only an endless trail of bodies, his men failed at their work, failed to stop the force that doesn’t have to rely on second hand powers or second hand drive.
He reeks of iron.
The fight is less difficult than he thought it would be. But then, it’s been a long time since Corvo has found himself worn so thin, found himself fighting on bloodlust and anger and little else.
His limbs remember where to strike. His blade remembers how to open a vein.
Daud paints him in a garish veil of red. Brighter, he thinks, than any of the others. His tongue pokes out, and he shudders at the taste of warm metal life as it rolls over his mouth. It’s by far the sweetest taste he’s had in a while.
Maybe that’s why he feels the need to carry his body as he moves through the ruined buildings. If he stinks for death or shit, he stinks no more than the rest of the flooded district, and Corvo barely feels the weight of him as he moves at a feverish pace, only barely lucid enough to be sure of his footing.
His stomach burns acid, his throat is raw, all his limbs ache. But he moves towards something, something drawing him like a magnetic force, a song in his ears that he might recognize if his brain weren’t so full of a violent white noise that scratches every surface of his being.
The altar is large in such a spacious room. The proportions are totally unfamiliar to Corvo, so used to finding small places with smaller fixtures. But he knows it in the marrow of his bones, and it’s only then that he realizes why he’s brought Daud with him.
Corvo has never asked for this, for any of this. His greatest hopes were to see an empress to old age, and pass into memory alongside her, or perhaps before. He had wanted to see his daughter ascend the throne in a time of peace and maybe plenty. He had wanted the things any man might.
Instead, these are his wages: the mark of a vacillating god, the blood of his lover’s murderer, the poison of fair-weather friends, a body mostly broken and pitted and scarred. A mind which he no longer controls.
He arranges Daud’s body on the altar, leans him so that his head lolls back against the flat surface of it. The rune screams out to be held, demands attention, but Corvo refuses it. His shaking fingers undo his coat and vest and coat and trousers, his boots and mask and gloves.
His tongue laves at the slit he’s made in Daud’s throat, though there’s no need. He still tastes his blood, but now he swallows a stolen mouthful, lets his lips and tongue become as red and anointed as the rest of him.
He reeks of iron.
The rune sends an aching shriek through one of his ears, driving into his brain like an ice pick. He doesn’t touch it. Instead, he kneels, holding Daud’s head in place as he cuts through the webbing beneath his tongue. It’s easy to pull through the hole in his neck, and Corvo wonders whether the intensity of the rune’s call is dependent on the Outsider’s interest.
If so, he has it now.
The thought makes Corvo shudder again as he rocks forward, presses his prick into the ruined gash of Daud’s neck. His breath comes hard through his nose, the sensation near to painful in how good it feels.
He thrusts in again, glad to feel the texture of his tongue along with the tattered skin, blood a sufficient lubricant, though he has no need of that. It would be just as good dry, as long as he had this – a body open to him from his own destruction of it, a debt written in blood that couldn’t be satisfied with murder only.
The raw skin of his hands smooths out over the ridges of the Outsider’s sigil. He feels the power of it, feels it burn its way through his body as the world shifts around him.
Daud remains. He remains. But he knows whose gaze falls upon him.
His next thrust is more savage, but that’s all he feels right now. His mind has been released from its tethers to all morality, and in this strange place, he doesn’t care if he’s savage. He wants the Outsider to see, to see what he and everyone else have done. What they have made him.
A low vibration hums in his throat when the Outsider’s hand strokes through his blood matted hair. It comes out choked, but he doesn’t care. He’s overwhelmed, and he doesn’t care.
The Outsider says nothing to him. It doesn’t matter; between the idea of ruining another of his playthings, and the idea of perhaps pleasing him to have done so, it doesn’t matter.
Nothing matters except the hand in his hair and the way his cock feels, sliding in and out of Daud’s throat. He can feel himself heavy with want, his gut coiled tight. It’s a horrible, perfect feeling, and Corvo finds tears at the corners of his eyes.
He did not weep when Jessamine died. He did not weep when Emily was taken. He did not weep in prison, or under torture, or when betrayed. But he weeps now, and feels a curious gaze touch the track marks that saline runs. Dried blood becomes fresh again, liquid iron.
The scent drives him to madness and half past it again, sanity a distant suggestion that could never have been his. His hands clutch tight around the rune and around Daud’s head, caring for the fragility of neither as his breaths become sobs, and then screams, and the crest of orgasm grinds its heel into his gut.
He can feel his come shoot inside of Daud’s throat, mix with the coagulation of blood there too, and there is nothing in his world but iron and salt and the touch of the Outsider.
He shakes to find lips pressed over his own. The Outsider's kiss is passionate, and poisonous, and Corvo breathes him in.
He reeks of iron.